Anthony Avalos’ family and LA County reach tentative settlement

The family of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who prosecutors say died of abuse and torture by his mother and boyfriend, has reached a $32 million tentative settlement with Los County Angeles.

Lawyers for three of Anthony’s siblings and his father confirmed the settlement amount on Wednesday. The final settlement requires formal approval from the county’s five-member Board of Supervisors, but the tentative agreement for such a massive sum says a majority of the board would have to approve the payment.

Brian Claypool, one of the lead attorneys representing Anthony’s relatives, said the landmark deal was reached just days before the start of a trial in Los Angeles that would have brought to light the service department’s failings county child and family.

“Money won’t bring Anthony Avalos back, but it will bring change,” Claypool said in an interview. “This will force DCFS to better protect these children.”

“LA County taxpayers are not going to continue to foot the $32 million settlement bill,” he added. “People in this community are going to be outraged by this and start electing different politicians – unless the board takes a more active role in bringing about change within DCFS.”

A DCFS spokesperson declined to comment.

The settlement will resolve the claims of Victor Avalos – Anthony’s father – and three of his siblings, who their lawyers say also suffered abuse at the hands of their mother and her boyfriend.

The mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, were indicted by a grand jury in 2018 for murdering and torturing Anthony and abusing two of his siblings in the home.

Barron and Leiva are being held without bond. Both pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the couple poured hot sauce over Anthony’s face and mouth, whipped the boy with a looped cord and belt, held him upside down and dropped him repeatedly on the head. They also alleged that the couple alternately withheld food and force-fed him, threw him against furniture and the floor, denied him access to the bathroom and enlisted other children in the room. home to inflict pain on him.

Anthony had been sporadically under DCFS supervision from 2013 to 2017, more than a year before his death, according to records reviewed by The Times and UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program. More than a dozen calls have been made to the county child abuse hotline about Anthony’s welfare – from teachers, counselors, family and police.

A photo of Anthony Avalos, taken in 2013 at the age of six, at David and Maria Barron’s house.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

A call in 2015 came from the vice principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Lancaster, who said Anthony reported that his mother beat him, locked him in a room with no access to food and made him squat for long periods with his arms. lying down, a punishment nicknamed “the captain’s chair”.

Anthony and his siblings also told their uncle that they had been locked in a room, facing “the captain’s chair” and whipped with a belt. At one point, the uncle physically prevented Anthony’s mother from picking up his children, prompting a visit from LA County Sheriff’s Deputies. A deputy who responded to the scene also called the child abuse hotline and advised Anthony and his siblings not to come home with their mother.

Yet Anthony was allowed to return to live with his mother that year. He stayed with her despite successive calls to the hotline, including one from a worker at a domestic violence program who reported that Anthony and his siblings had bruises and said Leiva had them. forced to fight.

On June 18, 2018, Anthony confided in his mom that he liked boys, according to the archives. Barron told a DCFS social worker that Leiva overheard this conversation. The following night, Leiva repeatedly dropped Anthony on the head, according to grand jury transcripts. Around noon on June 20, Anthony’s mother called 911 and he was taken to hospital in serious condition, where he died the following day.

The lawsuit filed following Anthony’s death accused DCFS and one of its contractors, Pasadena-based Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, of ignoring abuse concerns and failing to protected Anthony.

Now known as Sycamores, the organization began offering home therapy to Anthony in early 2015, records show. One of Sycamores’ advisers, Barbara Dixon, later came under fire from state regulators for her handling of Anthony’s case.

The state alleged that Dixon learned from Anthony that a relative had sexually abused him, and nothing in her notes indicated that she had reported the alleged abuse.

Later that year, Dixon noted allegations from Anthony’s uncle that his mother abused him and his siblings, but there was no record that she had discussed this with DCFS.

Sycamore trees are not included in the provisional regulations. A lawsuit involving claims against the nonprofit is set to begin in September.

Garrett Therolf, a former Times writer now in UC Berkeley’s investigative reporting program, contributed to this report.

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